CHICAGO -- It may be a week from now, and it may be two weeks from now, but this is certain: no matter what, the Epilogue is coming
. Judging from the outlines and drafts, this season's final post will be the longest yet. There's a lot of complicated information about the future to package as a download, and getting through it will require a lot of patience and understanding. To keep this from being novel-length, we're moving some of the regular Epilogue features to their own posts. Later on this week, we'll run the closing credits and give thanks to all those to whom they are due... but for now we run the numbers. It's time to redraw the Red Line
Figures are from the U.S. Department of Postsecondary Education's annual Equity In Athletics report
. All institutions must file a detailed list of their athletic finances, including their expenses and revenues and sport-specific outlays. All teams' relevant numbers can also be found on Basketball State
in convenient stacks
. For the past five years, we've used this data to formulate the line that divides the haves and the lesses. The Line works like this: any conference with an average athletic budget over $20 million and/or an average men's basketball budget over $2 million is on the other side. We cover those below. While this is as arbitrary as any financial benchmark, the on-court results aren't. In 2010-11, teams in conferences above the Red Line beat teams in leagues below 85 percent of the time.
• As we always must in any conversation like this, we have to explain the "exception." We remove from consideration any school that spends a third of their athletics budget on men's basketball and has a rafter full of banners and a series of deep NCAA Tournament runs to show for that financial deftness. Our three exceptions remain the same: Xavier, Memphis and Gonzaga. These are true Basketball Schools, and more schools should follow their lead by diminishing or eliminating football and spending more on hoops. NCAA Tournament wins bring greater name recognition
than sub-BCS football ever could.
• These numbers take into account the conference moves coming this summer. Most are taking place above the Red Line, but several impact us. Boise State is jumping the Line from the WAC to the Mountain West; thanks for the blue and orange memories. And we have a new bunch of friends, from Brigham Young University. Their $35 million athletic budget and $3.5 million men's basketball expenditures are not enough to carry the West Coast Conference over the Red Line, only increasing the average overall by $0.3m. While the reason they're here is due to their wishes for football independence and have nothing to do with hoops (they spend only 10 percent on MBB), we bid them welcome, even though they don't make an easy fit. While the Jimmer Show has the Cougars in the second weekend, it's their first time there since 1981. Not exactly the kind of sterling basketball legacy that deserves excepted status.
Also, the Atlantic Sun's Campbell Fighting Camels are going back to the Big South, and South Dakota moves from the Great West to the Badlands.
• In what should be a surprise to few, the Other 25 will once again be an Other 24 in 2011-12. We say goodbye to Conference USA, who had a one-season Mid-Majority pass. Excepting Memphis, the ex-Metro had an average men's basketball budget of $1.9 million on last check, but several schools have increased their hoops spending (Memphis, on the other hand, has cut from $6.5 million to $6.1 million).
If you want to pin the jump on one institution, however, blame Central Florida. UCF is a former Atlantic Sun school that's trying to Get Big and fast
, and they've jacked their men's basketball budget by 50 percent over one year, going from $1.4 million in fiscal year 2009 to $2.1 million in 2010. We wish Conference USA all the best, and the Golden Knights in particular. May those megabucks buy you a few more conference wins next season.
• We talk about "straddlers," those leagues who have one figure over the line and one below. We now have six, as the Ivy League joins that group. The Ancient Eight increased its average athletic spending from $19.7 million to $21.8 million. But that was primarily due to football and other sports, because the average men's basketball outlay remained at $0.8 million for the third straight year. Seeing that the conference came an Acela ticket away from two bids this season, a little more spending could close that gap.
• We always look for trends in these numbers from year to year. One interesting tidbit is that the average Horizon League athletic budget dropped from $9.7 million to $8.5 million. On the other hand, men's basketball spending increased by an average of $200,000 per school, from $1.6 million to $1.8 million. Who's spending more? Look at Detroit: $2.0m up to $2.6m, and to a smaller extent, Youngstown State ($.9m to $1.03m). But really look at Butler, who increased spending by $11 million in their Final Four fiscal year ($1.7m to $2.8m, 23 percent of a $12.4m overall budget). That, not NCAA Tournament wins, is what makes for future possible Basketball School exceptions.
• Who else is increasing their hoops spending? Keep an eye on Holy Cross, a school that made a Butler-size increase in outlay from $1.5m to $2.6m over one calendar year. Creighton, in an effort to recapture its old glory, moved from $4.0m to $5.0m, but cuts at other Valley schools kept the conference's level static... all the more reason to believe that the Jays are going to be tougher and tougher in the years to come. Bethune-Cookman has made a real investment in Our Game, increasing from $0.8m to $1.4m -- the first-time MEAC regular season champions will be heard from again. Also notable: Ohio ($1.7m to $2.3m), Utah State ($2.3m to $2.9m) and Saint Louis ($3.1m to $3.4m).
• Who's cutting their basketball budgets? State schools in fiscally troubled states. Nevada went from $2.3m to $1.7m over one year. UMKC also made a notable cut: $2.0m to $1.4m. Alcorn State, the sorriest of the SWAC programs, halved their expenditures from $0.9m to $0.4m. The Braves went 4-24 this year. They'd be an odds-on favorite to go winless a year from now.
• In another development, we will be giving everyone their names back in Season 8. While it's been fun to call the Atlantic 10 the Atlantic 14 and the Summit League the Badlands Conference, years that go by and the number of people who have no idea what we're talking about increase. Most among our current-slash-remaining audience weren't around for the original jokes. So we (and the site's Robots) will refer to those conferences by their given Christian names in the name of confusing fewer people than usual. But on second reference? Things could get downright wacky.